The COP28 summit in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a conference of global importance. For years it has served as the zenith of international climate negotiation, and gave rise in 2015 to the ubiquitous 1.5° C target. Recently, however, the event has been embroiled in a significant controversy following the leak of documents suggesting that the UAE intended to use the summit to negotiate oil and gas deals with various countries. This revelation has cast doubts over the integrity of the summit and the host country's commitment to climate change goals.

The scandal emerged from briefing documents, obtained by the Centre for Climate Reporting and published in collaboration with the BBC, which indicated that the UAE planned to promote deals for its national oil and gas companies during the COP28 climate summit. The documents suggest that COP28 President Sultan Al Jaber, who is also the CEO of the UAE’s state oil and gas company ADNOC and state renewable energy firm Masdar, was set to discuss fossil fuel deals with over a dozen nations. This included proposals to jointly evaluate international LNG opportunities with China in locations like Mozambique, Canada, and Australia.

Specifically, the briefing notes prepared for meetings with countries like Colombia, Germany, and Egypt indicated that ADNOC was ready to support the development of fossil fuel projects in these nations. For Germany, ADNOC was reportedly prepared to expand LNG supplies, and similar proposals were extended to other oil-rich countries such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

The UAE's COP28 team denied any conflict of interest, asserting that Al Jaber's focus remained on COP28's goals and delivering ambitious climate outcomes. They also claimed that the documents cited were inaccurate and not used in COP28 meetings.

However, the allegations have drawn widespread international concern. High-profile figures like former US Vice President Al Gore and former executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres have expressed serious apprehensions about the credibility of COP28 due to these developments. Climate NGOs, including Greenpeace and Amnesty International, have also expressed outrage, with some calling for Al Jaber to step down from his role at ADNOC to ensure the success of COP28.

The involvement of the European Union and European countries in the alleged deals has been particularly troubling, as it contradicts the EU’s commitment to phasing out fossil fuels. This raised further concerns about the integrity of the U.N. climate negotiations.

The financial implications of these alleged deals are significant, with the leaked documents detailing ADNOC's commercial interests in the targeted countries, amounting to billions of dollars. The role of the COP president, traditionally appointed by the host country to lead negotiations and raise climate change ambitions, has been scrutinized, especially given Al Jaber's prominent roles in the fossil fuel industry.

This scandal raises critical questions about the UAE's agenda in hosting COP28 and its potential conflict of interest. The revelations suggest a contradictory approach by the host country of a crucial climate summit, seemingly pursuing fossil fuel interests that undermine the core purpose of the COP negotiations.